Use our strengths as a region to retain, attract and create businesses and jobs.
A diverse, vibrant business community is the foundation for a healthy region. It creates jobs, which attract talented people and brings economic opportunity to everyone who lives here. Strong businesses also increase our tax base and contribute to our community through their products and services, their philanthropy and in many other ways. We must work harder to grow jobs. The best way to do that is to help existing businesses expand, promote a hotbed of entrepreneurial support and culture and attract new companies to locate here.
The Quad Cities has many key assets to potentially drive its growth. There are three catalysts in particular that serve as the highest-value opportunities to spur dynamic job and wealth creation.
1. Ensure the well-being, strategic importance and economic impact of the Rock Island Arsenal: While current capacity will be leveraged, new public and private investment will ensure the Arsenal remains a Quad Cities institution for decades to come.
2. Establish the Quad Cities as a global hub of innovative manufacturing: The Quad Cities will help lead the world into a new era of product development and fabrication.
3. Charge public and private regional leaders with driving a process to maximize the impact of the billion-dollar renewal of the I-74 Gateway Corridor over the Mississippi River: Public and private regional leaders will drive a process to maximize the impact of this infrastructure investment for the benefit of the Quad Cities’ economy, quality of life, connectivity, image and public realm.
Currently, lack of a sufficient regional stock of modern development sites and buildings hamstrings efforts to market the Quad Cities to incumbent or prospect firms because the region cannot always accommodate client specifications for sites and buildings. Finding solutions to this issue will seed success across all economic development programmatic categories, from existing business retention and expansion to corporate attraction and the creation of new companies that will ultimately grow out of their current space and look for locations to expand.
1. Ensure existing and prospect businesses have a sufficient supply of competitive development sites and buildings to accommodate growth: A system will be established to formalize sustainable product development to satisfy future growth ambitions.
2. Significantly enhance the Quad Cities’ capacity for waterborne commerce: Infrastructure will be developed to greatly increase the region’s ability to accommodate cargo shipping along the Upper Mississippi River. The Quad Cities’ long-standing role as a center of river commerce will be renewed and reinvigorated as larger and more lucrative barges are able to dock, offload and be supplied in the region.
3. Optimize the Quad Cities’ accessibility for business and leisure travel: The Quad Cities will continue to improve connections to and from the region by expanding direct flight destinations and fully capitalizing on the potential of a high-speed rail linkage to metro Chicago. Greater connectivity will lead to more options for utilizing the Quad Cities as a base for corporate or small business operations.
4. Provide businesses with best-in-class broadband connectivity: The increased ability of residents and businesses to access the internet at gigabit speeds will position the Quad Cities more solidly as a destination for talent, technology entrepreneurs, and data-intensive businesses. The risk of a “digital divide” will be eliminated by implementing equitable accessibility strategies.
Retention and Expansion
Supporting the growth of existing companies is an essential component of a comprehensive regional economic development program. According to public input gathered for this visioning process, Quad Cities businesses are satisfied with the support they receive from economic development officials and, on the whole, city and county government. Even so, more can always be done to support the expansion of existing businesses, especially considering they comprise roughly 80 percent of the average community’s job growth.
1. Leverage established and emerging economic clusters: Economic clusters are areas of industry concentration or strength. All communities have them. The very successful ones connect those strengths purposefully, so they can identify opportunities to grow, attract related businesses and develop new ones. Q2030 proposes that we:
a. Connect related business with one another so they can look at ways to collaborate and grow their business
b. Engage the leaders in cluster industries to help recruit companies to move here
c. Look for opportunities to spin-off startup businesses from larger companies
2. Customize support for medium-sized businesses poised for rapid expansion: Practitioners will provide research and market development services to take qualifying businesses to the next tier of success. Efforts will ensure that high-growth companies are retained in the Quad Cities.
3. Foster opportunities to develop a cooperative economy in the Quad Cities: Regional anchor corporations and institutions will direct portions of their purchasing budgets to networks of employee-owned local businesses. Efforts will provide onramps to the workforce and wealth-building opportunities for underserved Quad Cities communities.
To rise to the next level of activity, the Quad Cities will have to purposefully strive to alter its mindset from a community culture hesitant of embracing uncertainty and accepting failure to a mindset that welcomes risk-taking and understands that failure is a stepping stone on the path to future entrepreneurial success.
1. Establish a “center of gravity” for the Quad Cities’ entrepreneurial ecosystem: Recognizing the local climate for entrepreneurship is enhanced through the presence of a hub of activity, the Quad Cities will identify and designate a program and/or facility as the startup ecosystem’s so-called center of gravity. This process will be informed and owned by regional entrepreneurs, who will serve as the driving force behind the growth in the Quad Cities’ startup culture.
2. Capitalize on the entrepreneurship opportunities of the “maker” economy: As a region that makes things, the Quad Cities is perfectly positioned to utilize this capacity and knowledge base to foster an entrepreneurial niche tied to additive manufacturing. This will be accomplished through the provision of spaces, materials and support to launch a new breed of local entrepreneur and startup enterprise.
3. Accelerate the launch and growth of startup firms in key Quad Cities target sectors: Beyond simply providing space for entrepreneurs to work and shared services to save them money, the Quad Cities will develop programs – potentially across multiple industries – to leverage experienced entrepreneurs as advisors and advocates for the successful launch of new local firms. Startups “graduating” from these programs will have achievable paths forward to launch and scale their businesses.
4. Provide and promote opportunities for entrepreneurial education: Entrepreneurship can be a learned skill and one that is instilled from an early age. The Quad Cities will expand and develop capacity to expose students and adults to the process of small business creation and successful self-employment.
Research and Innovation
While the Quad Cities is not home to the campus of a major public or private research university receiving hundreds of millions or even billions of dollars in sponsored research investment, the region nevertheless has powerful assets contributing to dynamic potential research and innovation results. These assets are largely focused on advanced materials and manufacturing processes advancing multiple innovative technologies to improve goods production.
1. Become a recognized center for manufacturing research activities: Public and private investment in manufacturing-focused research in the Quad Cities will rise along with the standing of the region as a major hub of innovation in production technologies. Emphasis will also be placed on the possibilities of translating this research into regional job creation.
2. Cultivate a high-capacity institutional research presence in the Quad Cities: Access to world-class corporate and military entities in the Quad Cities will serve as a compelling draw for research institutions to co-locate in the region. These partners will form a cluster of activity focused on an untapped research opportunity in the Quad Cities.
Policy and Advocacy
Local and regional organizations and their partners have long been active in supporting and recommending state and federal policies and legislation that improve the regional business climate. This strong advocacy has continued even as certain of these organizations have merged and others have seen their resources diminish. With so much of the Quad Cities’ enhanced competitive capacity (including multiple recommendations in this Q2030 plan) dependent on state and federal funding, regional advocacy efforts must remain aggressive and effective to reinforce the success of the overall initiative.
1. Ensure state and federal policies are supportive of quality economic growth in the Quad Cities: Advocacy efforts in the Quad Cities will continue to be driven by comprehensive outreach to public and private partners to identify and advance issues that affect the region’s competitive position.
Beyond sustaining current efforts, recommended enhancements to the Quad Cities regional marketing program reflect adjustments rather than wholesale changes.
1. Invest in multiple media to advance growth in emerging and established targeted employment sectors and clusters: Regional marketing will pursue strategies to promote the Quad Cities across a spectrum of paid, owned and earned media.
2. Focus inbound, outbound and international marketing efforts on priority influencers, events and destinations: Relationships will be built and sustained with prospects and their existing and potential representatives to position the Quad Cities as a competitive market for high-value corporate relocations.
3. Effectively coordinate local and regional economic development partners: Professionals marketing the region and its localities will collaborate to present a unified voice and value proposition to prospect employers and investors.